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Thoughts on faith and life at Friendship Church

Do You Really Need Church?

Dennis Brown

I saw the above title for an article in The Huffington Post by Tara Lehman a week or so ago. Since I am a pastor, I was interested in the response. The author was talking with a young man who is part of “the none’s”, i.e. people who describe themselves as being jaded, non-religious. The guy said to the author and I am paraphrasing, “Why would you go to church? After all you can find a lot of things that the church offers in the secular community—service projects, concerts, book clubs, outreach to the poor, support groups, etc.”

The author said that the objector was somewhat correct and that if the church was just a glorified service-provider, why would anyone show up?  Why not just go to the bagel shop, do yoga, listen to U2 for some transcendence and volunteer to feed the homeless? Here are three reasons why you need to go to church and the author provides one of the answers:

I forget!

Lehman says,

I need to go to church because I have a really bad memory.... especially when it comes to remembering who I am as a child of God. When it comes to remembering what God has done, and continues to do, in and through Jesus Christ, I forget who I am. I forget who God is. I forget God’s Epic Story of Redemption and Liberation and Renewal and Beauty and Hope. I forget...a lot. On top of that, there are a gazillion other demands and voices that are vying for my attention all the freaking time. So I admit it. I get tired. And I get distracted. And more often than not, I forget.  I need church, because Church reminds me of everything that’s important.”

Think about it. Isn’t it fairly shocking that when Jesus speaks of the Lord’s Supper he has to say, “Do this in remembrance of me?”  It it is almost insulting. You want to say like Peter, “Jesus you know I love you.... do you think I would really forget you and your death on the cross?  What do you take me for?”  But Jesus knows us. He knows that we forget...Him...a lot.  Think about it, how much did you forget him this past week? How conscious were you of His presence? How much did you find yourself talking to Him about the big and small things in your life and the lives of others?

I need the good news!

This is a re-statement of what has been said but with a twist. Pastor Jason mentioned it last week in the call to worship, “We need to hear the good news.” Yes we need the epic story of “redemption and liberation and renewal and beauty and hope” to make sense and meaning out of the little stories of our lives. We need to fit them into the grand narrative of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.

I must confess I am a kind of news junkie. I’m a bit addicted and need to know what is happening in the world—CNN, BBC, The Huffington Post, New York Times, etc., etc. But how much of the news is good news? You know the answer. And if you have too much of it, without even realizing it you can find yourself grumpy, maybe cynical because there is so much bad, and you start to lose your grasp on “the epic story.” Sunday morning worship restores my balance and informs my mind of the good news of Jesus.

I need to hear the good news from you!

We might think, “Well I can read my Bible and pray privately, why worship together?” Sunday’s text is from Ephesians 5:18 where Paul says we should “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”  It isn't "you" (singular), but "you" plural or as our southern friends say, "ya'll." We need to hear loud singing from lots of our friends to awaken us from our spiritual lethargy. Just before that he says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead and Christ will give you light.” The spiritual deadness and lethargy cannot be overcome alone. We need the weekly experience of hearing others singing with all their heart so we wake up to the beautiful realities of our salvation.

Two weeks ago two good brothers, Christian and Luke, said goodbye. They were heading back to Vermont. We had many good talks along the way and one of the things I kept saying is, “When you get there, find a good church.”

They got the message and their last word was, “First thing that we are going to do is find a good church.” I told them it made my day. I gave them a big hug and inside was singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Why? Because we all have poor memories and we also need to hear the good news from each other. Tara Lehman said, “I still practice yoga and I’m enormously grateful for its presence in my life. But it’s no replacement for hearing God’s Story, read and proclaimed, week after week.”  Me too!